Review – Barkham Horror: The Meddling of Meowlathotep

Barkham Horror: The Meddling of Meowlathotep. Fantasy Flight Games, 2020. Designer, Matt Newman. Artists, Ryan Barger et al.

Last year, on April Fools Day, Fantasy Flight announced their new Arkham Files game, Barkham Horror: The Card Game. This was, of course, a joke, and a good one at that. However, as more and more fans tweeted “I would play this,” FFG realized that putting dogs on Arkham Horror was sort of like printing money. So much so, in fact, that this year, they actually did the damn thing.

Lookin’ canine, feeling fine. Like Jacqueline Fine. or Canine.Whatever.

Barkham Horror: The Meddling of Meowlathotep is a stand-alone scenario for Arkham Horror: the Card Game. You’ll need a copy of the base game to play, and any scenario packs or deluxe expansions you have will provide player cards to fill out your decks. Out of all the stand-alone scenario packs, this one is the standalone-y-est: none of the investigators or player cards in this scenario can be used in any other scenario. And all the investigators are dogs.

What’s going on here?

The dogs of Arkham have noticed that something smells fishy throughout the city. Cats have overrun many of the locations in Arkham, such as the Barkham City Pound, Muttskatonic University, and the Boneyard. The Order of the Dead Rodents on the Doorstep are increasing their efforts of summoning Meowlathotep, and the Meowsks of Meowlathotep stalk the streets. The humans…well, they don’t seem to notice anything is off, but that’s humans for you. It’s up to Skids O’Drool, Jacqueline Canine, Bark Harrigan, Kate Winthpup, and Duke (with his friendly human companion “Pete”) to stop the apocatlypse.

What’s so good about it?

Duke sniffs out some clues.

Even though this scenario cannot be combined with any other campaign, as a fan of Arkham Horror, I feel like this was a worthwhile buy. In fact, familiarity with the actual Arkham Horror: The Card Game enhances the play experience as the cards reuse artwork from other, Arkham Horror cards, but with the characters changed to cats and dogs. This was one of the few playthroughs of a scenario where we really looked forward to reading the flavor text, with jokes and pop culture references like the text of the Servant of Dog-Sothoth (“Stop trying to make fetch happen. It’s not going to happen.”) and the keywords on the Order Cultist (“Humanoid, sort of? Cultist, definitely.“).

As ridiculous as this adventure is, everything works thematically. Your investigator dogs will fight cats, dig for bones, and get distracted by squirrels. Occasionally, Ceiling Cat will gaze upon you, and if you are playing with Skids, dogcatchers will hunt you. In true Arkham Horror: The Card Game fashion, you will do things such as “learn a strange bark” and “bury the bones a few meters from where you found them” that you’ll be asked to remember, as they may have a bearing on later encounters.

And even though this is a novelty scenario, Barkham Horror: The Meddling of Meowlathotep does present some level of difficulty. Throughout most of the adventure, we felt challenged–but never overwhelmed. That led to a pleasant, fun playthrough where we got to experience the story.

What’s not so good?

There are a few issues with this scenario. The first problem I have, and this is true of all the stand-alones, is that it’s kind of a pain to create a deck for one playthrough. Of course, most stand-alone scenarios can be incorporated into a campaign, but this one cannot, so the burden of deck-creation is even more of an obstacle. Some people live for deck-building, and they will not have a problem with this, but when I build an Arkham deck, I want it to grow with me.

It looks epic, but this was kind of an anticlimax.

Another problem is that there are some really cool cards in here, such as the Spiked Collar (which basically gives you the Guard Dog’s damage ability), but you can’t use them in any other campaign. It almost feels like a waste (though, honestly, the Arkham City PD isn’t going to come to your door if you decide to disregard the “Barkham Deck Only” restriction.

The last issue, and this might be the worst thing, is that we found the final Agenda to be anticlimactic. The entire first part of the adventure was a game of cat and mouse dog, and there was a lot to explore, a lot to do. The second (and final Agenda) took us 1 turn to complete successfully. In Barkham‘s defense, in Arkham Horror: The Card Game AND in Arkham Horror 2nd Edition, I’ve found most Nyarlathotep encounters to go that way.

What do I think?

This was one of the most “fun” scenarios I’ve played for Arkham Horror. It’s wasn’t a huge challenge, and it’s not something I’d go back and play often, but sometimes, it’s good to just have a breezy, light-hearted romp through the Cthulhu mythos. If you are a SERIOUS GAMER, or if you don’t play Arkham Horror: The Card Game, you probably won’t be interested in this scenario, but Em and I loved it.

8/10 victory points.

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